Halloween or Thanksgiving?

So yesterday was a typical, fall day in the Old Dominion…bit gray, drizzly off and on… No wait, that would be an average day in the countryside of England. But the air was crisp, bit damp, overcast: my kind of relaxing-with-no-agenda weather. “Bruce” and I were just taking it slow; farmers’ market, coffee and breakfast, visit with the sis and her family, more coffee, wandering aimlessly around a really cool (not so little as it turns out), shop in Chester that showcases various artisans’ wares and second-hand goods. Check out The Lazy Daisy if you’re ever in town. Bring your coffee and take time to peer into every nook and side room; there’s no telling what you will find: from the hair bows in school colors for the cheerleaders in your life to a chicken crate repurposed into a coffee table. It’s all there. For us arsty/crafty folks, places like this are heaven sent! The Tattooed Boy Wonder was home from college, and having fun just hanging with his brother, so of course, Buffalo Chicken pizza was on the menu for dinner, preceded by very manly sandwiches….BLT with cheese. Bacon makes everything better, but I digress.

 

It was on the way to the old ‘hood to pick up this heart-attack inducing pizza that I decided to detour past the old house. Bruce had never seen it, so in the interest of sharing my past, I swung by. Big mistake.

 

I had no idea just how many bad memories were attached to that place, until I drove past it. It was so swift, and so unexpected, that it took every ounce of self-control to not floor it Dukes of Hazard style and get out of that cul-de-sac. Don’t get me wrong; we had some laughs there too. But the majority of experiences there were just depressing. Dark. Stressful. Scary. Like a perpetual monster under your bed in the night. Not just the life events, but the house itself. It wasn’t until after we had closed on the house that we learned a teen had died while living there (not in the house, but in a car accident). Even the high school my boys attended seemed cursed with a high accidental death rate among the student body. The frights of October 31st had nothing on the “cloud of doom” that seemed to hang over that place.

 

I flashed back and remembered that while living there, I experienced the darkest days of my life. My marriage disintegrated, and I sunk into a depression that I didn’t think I’d ever dig my way out of again. Granted, I started to pull myself together there too, but the damage was already done. The house just had “bad juju” as a friend likes to say. In those brief moments as I rolled past the yard and the house that now just seemed quite ugly and cloned (planned community you know…you’re not permitted to show any individuality unless approved by a committee in advance), I lost sight of where I was now, only seeing the darkness that hung over that place.

 

The whole drive back home, my mind flipped through the Rolodex of events as if trying to tally every negative moment that occurred there. I finally crawled in the shower, as if I could wash those painful memories off like dust and mud. As I stood under the steaming water, near to tears, I just sent up a simple prayer of thanks for a reminder of where I was now. I didn’t need to forget those memories, but I needed to lose my grip on their place in my past. I believe I was led past that house again in order to fully appreciate what I do have, just how great are the gifts that I have now. I still struggle with deciding about the path my journey will take, but I am truly blessed to know that I am loved; that by turning my life over to God’s will instead of mine, I can find my way through any challenge. It may be a bumpy path at times to traverse, but I will make progress. My vision for my life’s work is becoming a bit more clear day by day, as I embrace that I am meant to serve and love others through my vocation, my service to my new home church and community, and my relationships with those around me. It has also become critical to me that I grow my writing as well as my side business as these celebrate who I am as an artist: a description of me I have taken a curiously long time to fully embrace. I also know that just as I have rediscovered this side of me that lay buried for too long, I am meant to encourage that gift and passion in others who either lost touch with that part of themselves or who are only just coming to understand that it burns within them as well.

 

This morning as I reread a letter I wrote to “Bruce” recently, I was again reminded of all for which I have to be thankful. My life going forward with him is a story of gratitude and faith, just as gratitude and faith brought him to me. We never know how long we will have someone in our lives, so give thanks for every moment you do have. When the first words you hear in the morning are “Have I told you yet today how much I love you?”, there can be no other choice but to smile and give thanks for all that you have, letting go of what you don’t have or wish you had…because there is nothing else to compare to the gift of love.

Advertisements

Part 2.5: Becoming Me, Almost….

Yes, I know I promised the next part of this series was going to be about how I understand intimacy, but a bit of something happened last night to cause me to get this out first.  Please pardon the interruption and the detour.  And please excuse the coltish awkwardness to follow; I’m terribly out of practice at writing any sort of poetry.

 

He walked the graveled path on bare feet,

Pain impaled the body and mind

Alone and lost in winter’s freeze.

He stopped, howled his anguish and

Tried to soothe the temporary ache

With fleeting relief to the wounds that quickly fell away.

He found, discarded but fair cloth to bind his feet.

And the walk became less strained…

And the path began to yield its light.

A willow’s feathers brushed the ground,

Offering a tender invitation to rest a while.

Pleasant and soothing, but only for a moment

Before offering protection for the continuing journey.

Though the path remained loose and rocky

The stones grew smaller and less threatening,

Further separated from his self

By the gift of the willow’s boughs wrapped tightly ’round his feet.

Color peeked from the undergrowth

As flowers peered their frilly faces upward in encouragement to continue his search.

Taller and brighter grew the petals and

He smiled.

Then, in the garden of the home he left a lifetime ago,

The sweet scent of a flower emerged from a tangle of thorns.

Recognized yet unknown in youth.

Confidently, he pruned away the sharp distractions to exposed the red heart of a rose.

Small. Soft. Delicate yet sturdy on its own straight spine of scattered minute thorns.

He drew his breath at the find,

Bent.

Cupped the bloom to his face in hands folded as if in prayer.

Closed his eyes to bend and drink her scent.

He took nothing from the rose, yet gave her nourishment.

Her spikes lost their threatening stance and

She enveloped him in her beauty and invisible gifts,

While she  grew stronger and brighter.

For he was home,

And she, tended.

 

Sticking Around

Things that “stick around”…good friends for an extra cup of coffee or a beer, fans after an autograph, the smell of cabbage cooking…dog farts….  “Sticking around” implies there’s something else the “sticker” could be doing, but chooses otherwise.  Perhaps, they just enjoy what they’re doing, and are loathe to change the activity.  Maybe, the sticker is just a touch on the lazy side and can’t be bothered to do something different that would require effort to change direction.  Now, cabbage and dog farts don’t exactly have a choice in whether to stick around or not, but to a certain extent, their pungence causes them to hang about…a mixture of chemistry and olfactory memories combining to keep them around longer than either necessary or desired.  A good squirt of air freshener or a strong fan will generally help them along their way however. Usually.  Unless it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I’ve got the crock pot filled to the brim with corned beef and cabbage….or if one of the boys has fed the pug beans.  That’s bad news there. 

But what about people in your life who stick around…in spite of something weird, negative or scary… Have you ever questioned their motivation? You throw work drama at them.  They pour a couple cups of coffee, pull up a chair, and say, “Tell me more.”  You decide to sulk over an unsolicited text they get…they didn’t invite or ask for it, but you decide to act like an ass about it…just because.  They just hug you, and show you that there is no conversation to this text, and that it is all one-sided.  You know they’re right; you just had a moment of acting self-centered and about 5 years old.  They still keep hugging, texting and calling you though, even though the tantrum probably deserved a dose of the silent treatment.  Some folks, and let’s be honest, we’re talking about partners/boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses and even family members here, would walk pretty quickly away from these little life dramas.  Face it, in the grand scheme of things, these really are petty issues, and typically don’t deserve a huge amount of energy to get through.  

Then life throws you a curve ball.  A big ol’ smack upside the head, reality check, heart stopping, make you want to barf continually moment.  You can’t catch your breath as you try to process what is happening.  Then an even darker feeling creeps into the edges of your reality…you’re in a pretty new relationship…how do you share this with your partner and not expect them to pack up the U-Haul?  Now let’s think about this rationally for a moment…would it really be fair to share this life-moment with a new partner?  You’re barely out of the burping in front of each other stage, although you’ve shared a great deal of your history, but seriously?  You expect them to be there for this?  “THIS” is heavy stuff…it can make or break marriages, so it really might be more kind to just quietly break this off with them now, and spare them the process.  True, they might be confused and hurt at the rejection, but then you wouldn’t feel the guilt of the alternative….

…the alternative, is to tell them, and then hold your breath, waiting for them to leave.  But they don’t.  You start to wonder, if they are sticking around only not to seem heartless: that once the event is past, they will be the ones to quietly bow out before anything else can crop up.  You wouldn’t blame them, although you would be hurt, but who wants to wade willingly into a crisis, make it through, then hang around to see if something else happens again.  That might even be the definition of a sadist come to think of it…..

Or….your partner, after you tell them, sits silently for a moment, then tells you (forgive the changing voice…) “WE will get the facts, then WE will get the plan, then WE will follow through with it.  WE will get through it.”

It then becomes clear to you that it is the truly extraordinary hearts that are capable of such “Stick to it-iveness”.  The only guilt that you should be feeling is in ever doubting that they would be there in the first place.  You know that you too, would be there for them were the tables turned, and that is what makes the relationship have longevity potential.  Something else may come along in time to send you each down separate roads, but for right now, this…this challenge will only cause you to stick even closer together.  

Pain, Fog, and Stillness

Used with permission from flickr.com/photos/2kun.  Photographs on this site are copyrighted and are available for purchase.  Do contact the original owner for details.

Used with permission from flickr.com/photos/2kun. Photographs on this site are copyrighted and are available for purchase. Do contact the original owner for details.

What a dark sounding title for a post, eh? I promise it’s not all gloom and doom, but it comes from joy birthed through pain. At first glance, the photo above struck me as painful…despairing…alone. But the more I stared at it, the more I could see it as a metaphor for life, specifically, my recent life.

 

Let’s start with the bleeding obvious, the barbed wire: sharp, restrictive, and exclusionary. It says “You are not allowed in here, or out of here. Any attempts to gain entrance or escape will be met with sure pain…and lots of cursing and blood.”

 

Now, turn your attention to the fog. Fog clouds, shrouds, and obscures our field of vision. Think about driving down the road when you encounter a smoky blanket of cloud, kissing the pavement and making you nervous about what lies ahead. Where is the road? What if the guy in front of me doesn’t have on his/her lights? I might smack into him! I can’t see! Never mind you’ve traveled that road a gazillion times before and know every pothole and bump. You doubt your own history, prior knowledge, and assume the worst. You know the road is there somewhere, but you’re just not certain where anymore.

 

Finally, the water: gray, still, perhaps stagnant. It’s deserted; there is no sign of activity, devoid of all visible life.

 

If I were to describe my life for about a three-year period, I would use these descriptors as the colors to paint what seemed a grim picture. I felt trapped and the only way out would be painful. I couldn’t imagine that there was anything out there that wasn’t as bleak as what I felt at the time. Just nothing. In my mind, there was absolutely nothing out there to find that didn’t have the potential to be more painful than what I already knew. So for the longest time, I stayed with the pain I knew, rather than risk a pain that was new and unknown.

 

But slowly, I came to understand that reality is what you make it at times. Through an enormous amount of hard work and a dose of prayer, I began to rewrite my reality. I could now look at the picture above in a different light. The barbed wire came to represent the challenges to my life that I could get through; all I had to do was find the right tool to cut it. That tool exists; it’s not mythical. It’s Faith. My faith allows me to break through any obstacle to reach what I need to live.

 

In the concrete sense, I need water…the still quiet of the water. I find that I am calmed by water. A mountain stream, the gently lapping tides in the morning on the beaches at the Outer Banks, but especially the Chesapeake Bay…these all ground me and have the ability to instantly make me appreciate that there is a Creator who made these marvels for me to experience and protect. In the abstract, water is to me a metaphor for love. Love, like the waters of the Earth, can be calm and still, or turbulent and stormy; it’s never the same from moment to moment, sometimes it is present in abundance. Other times it seems scarce or fouled. I look through the pain of my past, break through with the aid of my faith, to find love, still, quiet, and ready for me to wade in as deep as I am willing to go. I will float along in it, and allow it to carry me where it will, unconfined.

 

Which brings me to the fog. No longer does fog represent fear and darkness, but rather a soft unknowing. I think of this as trying to understand or explain God’s purpose for me. I think I have an idea of what lies ahead, but in fact, I don’t know for certain. I can decide what I think lies ahead, but when I open my eyes and my heart, I may find something very different…that God’s purpose for me may be unknown or unclear at the moment, but the uncertainty isn’t permanent. In time, when the conditions are right, the fog will lift and all will be made clear.

At church this weekend, the pastor spoke of unanswered prayers, or more correctly, that God answers all prayers, just that sometimes, the answer is “No”. And like children, sometimes we don’t like to be told “no”, but it’s for our own good. I really struggled with this for the longest time in my past, and I even used this as a rationale to turn from my faith for many, many years. If I prayed, and the prayer was answered the way I wanted, then I could “see” that there was God. But if the prayer went, in my mind, unanswered, then this must be proof that there was no God, as a merciful God would surely grant me what I wanted. But it doesn’t work like that, no more than a child asking for cake for breakfast is going to get told he can have it (well, ok, once in a blue moon we get something extraordinary like that, but you get my point). We are children who need to be told “no” once in a while, for our own good.

 

So when I look again at this picture, and I think of my prayers for the pain to be lifted, for the path to be cleared to love again, and I reflect on who is in my life right now, I can’t help but believe that this is a special time in my life of prayers being answered and people being placed in my life in response to those prayers. The question that now remains to be answered…that will be answered in time, is this: has God placed this person in my life, so seemingly out of the blue, for the remainder of my life, or only as a lesson that His plan is for me to have this love for a moment? I don’t know, but I do know this; I will do everything I know to be a good steward of the love He has laid at my feet and not take a single drop for granted.

Love Is….

1Corinthians13

The bookmark still stands in its place at these verses I poured everything I had into sharing that day.  It will never leave these pages. 

I saw a few quotes about love this morning pop up in my Facebook feed, and I noticed that while many of them hit home about finding love again, or allowing oneself to love, or even what love isn’t, none of them were as simple and elegant as my favorite passage about love in the entire world, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.  However, it was in responding to a post of dear friend from high school, that something clicked for me.

“What is seen was not made up of what is visible!”

I guessed “faith”.  Then this morning, I came back and added hope and love.  He let me know this was from Hebrews 11:3b just now while I was writing this. (Thanks friend!!)

While I may not consider myself a Christian in the most typical sense of the term, I have, ever since I was a little girl, been in love with 1Corinthians 13.  My grandmother gave me one of those Precious Moments copies of it when I was little, and I have not been able to find it since Mom’s passing.  I hope to find it again somewhere among all my boxes and boxes of treasured memories. …it is truly one of most precious possessions.

When my mother passed away on December 19, 2000, I knew in an instant what I would read at her service.  Family members asked me repeatedly if I thought this was wise…not because it is controversial, but because of its power.  Not one of them believed they could make it through it, and even our friend (Mormon Bishop but close family friend to us all) offered to read it for me.

But I was firm. I stood that day in front of all our family and friends, and in a strong voice that might have cracked only a couple of times, read these words that so completely summed up my Mother’s heart, her soul, and her relationship with all around her. I read this straight from my copy of the Living Bible, Family Edition given to my by my grandparents a few days before my wedding in December of 1984.  I stood and read the entire Chapter 13:1-13.  I have given presentations in front of hundreds at conventions of my peers, but never has a reading been more difficult, yet so easy in my entire life. Mom had loved me well. Originally, I had only planned to share verses 1-3 on the blog, but as I typed, I knew I had to go back and include it all.  The internet inspirational posters can’t come close to capturing the power and beauty of these words when lifting only portions of 4-8.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.  If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do?  Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love.  If I gave everything I have to poor people, and I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.  Love does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable or touchy.  It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices when truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10

Al the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. Someday prophecy, and speaking in unknown languages, and special knowledge–these gifts will disappear. Now we know so little, even with our special gifts, and the preaching of those most gifted is still so poor.  But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood., and now I have put away the childish things.  In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face to face. Now that all I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God see into my heart right now.

1 Corinthians 13:13

There are three things that remain–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

 

 

 

 

 

Sundresses, Smiles and Spins

Feeling chatty this morning…deal with it 

I received a text Thursday a week ago from a friend that absolutely made me feel incredible. I was spending a leisurely afternoon amongst the racks at Goodwill, as that is the clothes closet of choice for anyone like myself steadily losing weight and not wanting to go broke while trying to stay clothed…so anyway, I’m looking at dresses since I have this odd sudden desire to feel girly again (still not telling you “Bruce Wayne’s true identity…might be sooner than later though…), when I run across a retro looking black and white sundress. It’s gorgeous. I also know that 3 of the women in my school would knock me over to get it.

So while I’m trying it on, and for once, complimenting myself on looking darned good in it, the phone dings. Not my honey’s tone, but the more “generic” tone. Normally, I’d leave it, but I thought I’d have a quick peek, being in a good mood while still in a dressing room can only mean good things, right? So it is one of the 3 co-workers, who would kill to have the dress. It is a photo of her art, with the message that I’ve inspired her to start painting again. I absolutely melted. In that moment, I knew that I was doing what I was meant to do, and I thank her for letting me see that.

(and yes, I bought the dress, which just needs a new button to keep me from flashing everyone unexpectedly…it just screams “Let’s walk around Carytown, holding hands and looking in windows”).

So fast forward to last night…I’ve since purchased two more “Marilyn Monroe” sundresses.  The choice for last night was highly daring for me.  Since losing such much weight, well, I’ve apparently misplaced the cleavage too.  Go figure.  Totally not fair.  Anyway…this black halter sundress with white flowers is gorgeous, and quite, um, plunging shall we say.  I’m looking down at the girls, wondering if athletic tape could somehow improve the situation: at least make it LOOK as if there are a pair still down there and give them a lift north.  Oh sod it…just go with it.

“Bruce” and I set off for Carytown, the really hip side of town where everything is in walking distance: shops, $1.99 theater, a ton of places to eat, and 99% of it all locally owned.  Love supporting this place, and even would consider this a good spot to eventually move (Bruce, quit trying to whack the keyboard…).  First stop, movie theater.  This is the historic landmark in RVA, the Byrd Theater (http://byrdtheatrefoundation.org/).  Incredibly beautiful theater, but make sure you take cash; they don’t do plastic.  So, the two options were “The Other Woman” (ummmm…no.  Not a good choice) or “The Muppet Movie”  YES!!  Love Muppets!  How appropriate that two folks who are a pair of big kids at heart, and who spend so much of their lives with kids, would have a first movie of muppets.

After the show, it was strolling around Carytown, which is the ONLY thing to do after an evening at the movies, peeping in windows, laughing at displays, trying to figure out how anyone can pay some of the prices they pay for some of those items (cool though they may be)…and holding hands, and laughing.  Or should I say, smiling.  Smiling/laughing. Smaughing.  There, new word.  When he smiles, he makes this little sound like a chuckle.  I don’t even have to see his face to know when he’s smiling.  How cool is that?  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, should we part paths in the future, I’ll have so many incredible memories to carry me through.  Lovely, lovely man…

So the night wrapped up at a pizza by the slice place, Mary Angela’s (http://maryangelaspizza.com/) for a slice and a cheese steak (which Bruce claims is about the best he’s had outside of Philly).  We must confess, we were both charmed by a little girl, probably no more than 3 or 4 at the front.  She was spinning in circles, pausing, and blowing kisses at Bruce…then everyone else. We both had to just watch her, such pure joy and love in her little face as she spun, paused, blew two-handed kisses, sun, paused, kissed.  Precious.

Spin….pause….kiss….

Sounds like a great motto for how to live life.

 

Love No Matter….

love no matter who

Welcome to this beautiful Monday morning!  The air is crisp: not exactly chilly, but a nice reprieve from all the rain and scorching heat we’ve had recently.  I had an amazing weekend that still is carrying over into today and tomorrow.  Any chance to spend this much time getting to know the new man in my life makes me quite grateful that I have this opportunity for a long summer break.  There.  I said it.  I’m a teacher, and I love my summer break!  So sue me.

Morning meditation was a bust…I couldn’t focus. The cats kept creeping under me and into my lap.  The dog kept laying on the mat and putting her head on my knee and nudging my hand.  My thoughts kept creeping back to the trials my daughter is experiencing in her life. I’d then get annoyed because I wanted to reflect on the church service I had attended with my sister and her family yesterday as they prepare for a two week missions trip to Lima (yes, I went to church…remember, I don’t NOT believe, I just believe differently).  I wanted to reflect on where my relationship is currently with “Bruce”  (it’s just occurred to me that I have a topic for another post…what do you call someone you’re dating when you both pushing 50?). Nothing I wanted to accomplish, was happening on the mat this morning.  Even when I gave up on the meditation and just went to trying sun salutations, the dog crept in between my legs while trying to move into Warrior….the cats immediately moved onto my pillow and behind my feet.  Unless I wanted to end up on my rear end, I figured I had just give it a rest this morning and move on.  See proof of my troubles this morning….

cat vs yoga

Grumped my way back into the house to fix coffee and grab the laptop to have a good whine about it on Facebook.  But while I was waiting for the morning dopamine delivery to be ready, I scrolled through my timeline, and ran across the poster above. I’ve seen it many times before and appreciated the message, but for some reason, something clicked this time.

“Some people won’t love you no matter what you do…”

I reflected on someone close to me.  It seems that as fortunate as I have been in relationships (yes, even the ups and downs of 29 years of marriage to one man), my beautiful friend has had the opposite experience.  She is in a relationship now that is so toxic emotionally I’m afraid, that I find it painful to witness.  I have really tried to support her, counsel her, guide her, listen  to her, but it becomes more and more difficult as time grows on.  I know I cannot force her to listen to reason, but as a friend, it is heartbreaking to watch her trudge through life, one depressing event after another.  She claims over and over that she loves her partner, that she couldn’t live without him.  Then in the next breath, is hysterically screaming that he is constantly putting her down and telling her she is no good…telling her that no one but him will ever love her.  As her friend, trust me, it is painful to hear those words and not physically respond to them.  But I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t do well in jail, so….

I can reflect as well on my own marriage breakdown, and how different it has been to my friend’s experience.  I was unable to “make” my ex love me, and it took a very long time for me to understand that.  It took even longer for me to understand fully that it wasn’t his fault, nor was it mine. We created a beautiful family together, and that was what we were destined to do.  No amount of changing or therapy or pretending was going to change the fact that over the course of our marriage, we both grew into more confident adults who knew better what they needed in life and were smart enough (and compassionate enough) to admit we couldn’t provide that for the other. So now we stay friends, and that is the best way it should be.

“…and some people won’t stop loving you no matter what you do.”

Which brings me here.  I really don’t think there is much to say about this.  Reflect on all those in your life, past/present, family/friends who are always there for you (sometimes with bail money), who will tell you off in a heartbeat, then offer to kick the crap out of whoever has upset you.  These are the people we all need in our lives; people who will build you up, hold you up, and love you, even when you are busy being the biggest dumb ass you can possibly be.

“Go where the love is!”

…and when you get a text that you need to come snuggle, that’s exactly where you go….

Namaste om shanti

K